“Today, all students — not just top students — need to master math, science, English and social studies and learn skills in problem solving, thinking creatively and communicating clearly,” said Branstad in his speech. “Our goal can’t just be for Iowa students to be best in the nation again. We must make sure Iowa students can compete with young people in countries with the highest-performing schools.”
Research shows a highly effective instructor is the most important factor in the classroom in raising achievement, and some teachers consistently enable students to make more academic progress than others. Leading management consulting firm McKinsey & Co. reports that the top-performing countries recruit 100 percent of their teachers from the top third academically.
“If we are going to expect more from our teachers, we must provide a better support system for teachers,” said Branstad. “That starts with being more selective about who becomes a teacher. Teaching is a tough profession; teachers need more time for professional development targeted to improve instruction. They need more time to collaborate on lessons and to figure out how to help students struggling to learn.”
Gov. Branstad said that the State Board of Education’s decision to add the new, voluntary Common Core State Standards in math and literacy strengthens the Iowa Core. He added that The Iowa Department of Education, with the help of educators from around the state, plan to fine tune the mathematics science, social studies standards and literacy standards.
Branstad called for an expansion of high quality charter schools, citing the potential for increased efficiency.
“Innovation should also mean figuring out how to provide more tailor-made opportunities for students by combining resources available in the traditional classroom with resources available online.”
Gov. Branstad closed his remarks by saying, “Some improvements won’t be costly. Others will require significant new dollars spent in smart, strategic ways. All will require that we work together.
Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds and I want to welcome each of you to the Iowa Education Summit. It’s a privilege to have the opportunity to speak before so many people who value education as much as you do.
Here is the Governor's speech as prepared for delivery:
So I want to pose this critical question: How can Iowa deliver a world-class education to ALL students, who must be better prepared than ever to succeed in a dynamic, knowledge-based global economy?
That is the question Iowans must answer together. We have a proud tradition of outstanding schools. But we became complacent.
While some states raised academic expectations, we did little to change.
Iowa went from being a star performer on national tests in the 1990s to falling toward the middle of the pack in 2009.
As other states improved their schools, so did other nations that outperform the United States on international tests.
They understand that brainpower is the currency of the 21st century.
They realize that, today, ALL students — not just top students — need to master math, science, English and social studies AND learn skills in problem solving, thinking creatively and communicating clearly.
Our goal can’t just be for Iowa students to be best in the nation again.
We must make sure Iowa students can compete with young people in countries with the highest-performing schools, based on the Program for International Student Assessment — known as PISA.
Fifteen-year-olds in more than 60 countries take this exam. Our youngsters DESERVE to be as well educated as those in Canada, Japan and Australia, among other places.
And we must work toward that goal with the same urgency Iowans marshal when communities face the devastation of a flood or a tornado.
This is a challenge that will become a catastrophe if we fail to act.
This is about whether OUR young people are equipped to land good jobs and be good citizens.
The future well-being of our great state depends on Iowans’ willingness to dramatically improve our schools.
I am optimistic Iowans will meet this challenge.
Leaders of the world’s highest-performing school systems continually learn from what works elsewhere.
We can do that, too. Let’s adopt the most successful approaches around the world along with IOWANS’ best ideas to craft the right strategy for our state.
Let’s move quickly in that direction with this in mind: The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce projects that by 2018 that 63 percent of all U.S. jobs will require some post-secondary education.
While 58 percent of Iowans age 25 and older have at least some college, Iowa ranks only 26th in the nation.
To gain a competitive advantage, more Iowa high school graduates need to be ready for training or college. And they need to understand how higher education will best prepare them for challenging jobs that pay well.
That will determine whether they have access to the middle class.
And whether Iowa thrives with new and expanding businesses because our workforce is the best educated in the nation.
To create world-class schools, we must address three key areas:
First, how to ensure the most qualified, best prepared principals and teachers can do their best possible work for students.
Research shows a highly effective instructor is THE most important factor in the classroom in raising achievement. And some teachers consistently enable students to make more academic progress than others.
Given the high stakes in the 21st century, every teacher must make significant academic progress with every student. EVERY YEAR.
At the same time, let’s recognize that children come to school at different starting points because of problems beyond the control of schools, such as poverty.
Steady growth toward high academic standards should be the focus. More support for teachers from parents and others in communities is crucial.
If we are going to expect more from our teachers, we must provide a better support system for teachers.
That starts with being more selective about who becomes a teacher.
Leading management consulting firm McKinsey & Co. reports that the top-performing countries recruit 100 percent of their teachers from the top third academically.
Earning good grades is not a guarantee of success as a teacher - other qualities count, such as having an engaging personality.
But it makes sense for new teachers to be drawn from among the smartest, hardest-working students. We need to pay beginning teachers more as well.
We HAVE to send the message that teaching is a highly respected profession in Iowa.
I understand that teaching is one of the most important jobs there is. While I was growing up, I had many good teachers, but one in particular inspired me – Lura Seewick who taught American history in Forest City.
She had one blue eye and one brown eye and her favorite color was purple, so she wore a lot of purple dresses.
But that’s not why she commanded everyone’s attention.
She had a passion for teaching and a love for America, especially for the three Rs of good government – rights, responsibility and respect.
Any student who had her could repeat that again today.
It’s because of her that I went to law school and chose a career in public service.
I understand, too, that teaching is one of the TOUGHEST jobs there is, especially when students today are expected to learn so much more compared to when I was in school.
So we must create more time for teachers to do their work. They need more time for professional development targeted to improve instruction. They need more time to collaborate on lessons and to figure out how to help students struggling to learn.
Better working conditions will allow the vast majority of teachers to make more progress in raising student achievement.
Meanwhile, teachers who do not raise achievement enough over time should receive intensive coaching.
If a genuine effort to assist them fails, and due process is followed, they should leave the classroom in a reasonable time so students don’t continue to be shortchanged.
At the same time, outstanding teachers should be rewarded. They should have the opportunity to be educational leaders.
Master teachers, for example, could split their time between teaching and coaching – they could observe teachers teaching and provide invaluable feedback.
They could foster a culture of professional excellence in EVERY school building.
Fostering a culture of professional excellence should be the mission of principals as well.
Instead, far too much of the principal’s day often is taken up with other issues, such as building management.
More training is needed so more principals know how to better support teachers in the classroom, and to work with them more as colleagues.
Many principals say they rarely have time to observe teachers in the classroom, and many teachers say their performance evaluations typically have little value.
This must change if we are to raise student achievement.
Highly effective teachers and principals are a hallmark of the top-performing school systems.
So are high academic standards. Top-performing school systems expect virtually ALL their students to meet high standards.
Schools are in the process of implementing the Iowa Core — essential skills and concepts in math, science, literacy and social studies.
The State Board of Education’s decision to add the new, voluntary Common Core State Standards in math and literacy strengthens the Iowa Core.
But there is still work to do.
Consistently high, clear expectations for what students should know and be able to do are ESSENTIAL.
The Iowa Department of Education, with the help of educators from around the state, will fine tune the mathematics and literacy standards.
It will strengthen science and social studies standards as well.
Designing the curriculum to meet those standards will be left to districts, with assistance from area education agencies.
But there is also value in having a first-rate model curriculum. The state education department will develop a model to serve as a guideline.
Next, it is critical to have strong matching assessments in which teachers have confidence.
Those assessments must reflect the curriculum – and they should provide useful, ongoing feedback.
They should help teachers, students and parents understand where students are having success - and where students need to improve.
That brings us to the third area to be addressed: innovation to boost learning.
One way to do that is to expand the number of high-quality charter schools in Iowa.
Charter schools can innovate in myriad ways. They can offer longer school days or years. They can focus on science or the arts or some other specialty.
Innovation should also mean figuring out how to provide more tailor-made opportunities for students by combining resources available in the traditional classroom with resources available online.
In other words, we can make learning more personalized, relevant and engaging - and enable students to progress based on their competence instead of seat time.
Like many of you, I did not expect Iowa to lose its place as a national leader in education.
But now we must acknowledge where we are, roll up our sleeves and move forward.
Let’s build the broadest possible coalition of Iowans to create world-class schools because the change required won’t be easy.
No one will be more critical to the success of this coalition than Iowa’s teachers.
I want to thank you for your dedication to giving Iowa’s children the best education possible.
The system in place does too little to support the incredibly valuable work teachers do and too often treats teachers like interchangeable parts rather than the vitally important professionals they are.
I want to express deep appreciation for our seven partners’ support for the Iowa Education Summit: the Iowa Alliance for Choice in Education, Iowa Area Education Agencies, the Iowa Association of School Boards, the Iowa State Education Association, School Administrators of Iowa, the Iowa Business Council and the Iowa Chamber Alliance.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts and ideas about how we can improve Iowa’s schools.
Thank you to the many other businesses, organizations and individuals who contributed to making the Iowa Education Summit possible.
And thank you again to everyone here today – including educators, parents, legislators, business executives and other community leaders - for making education such a high priority.
Other states, and nations, are striving successfully for educational excellence. They know a high school education is no longer enough for their children.
We can join them by putting in place policies that do three key things:
1) Help ALL our teachers and principals be highly effective.
2) Raise academic standards and accountability.
3) Foster innovation that improves learning and gives families more options.
Some improvements won’t be costly. Others will require significant new dollars spent in smart, strategic ways.
All will require that we work TOGETHER.
Working TOGETHER, we can make sensible, long overdue improvements in Iowa schools.
Working TOGETHER, we can meet the vital goal of giving our children and grandchildren a WORLD-CLASS EDUCATION. They are counting on us. We can’t let them down. THANK YOU.
For more information, please visit www.governor.iowa.gov
Governor Terry Branstad